Lisa Ellman, Partner And UAS Practice Co-Chair, Hogan Lovells
Lisa Ellman is Partner at Hogan Lovells law firm and Chair of the firm’s global Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Group based in Washington, DC. She also serves as Co-Executive Director of the newly launched Commercial Drone Alliance, which bridges the knowledge gap between government policymaking and business innovation. In February 2015, she was featured in Fortune magazine's “Most Powerful Women” series for her efforts to develop policy to govern drone use in the domestic United States. As a partner at Hogan Lovells, Lisa works with her clients, including commercial drone manufacturers, operators, end users and more, to engage with policymakers around regulations and compliance standards for the drone and unmanned-aircraft industry. Hogan Lovells helps innovators to tackle the challenges of the enterprise while complying with relevant policies and regulations. In an interview with Lisa, she provides insight on the challenges faced in the drone industry while complying with regulations set by the government – and how industry is working with policymakers to shape some of those regulations now.
“In the drone industry, policy and regulatory frameworks are of very high importance. It is a timeless issue that policies lag behind as technology moves quickly forward. And that is where my expertise lies: in the intersection of policy and technology, helping innovators and policymakers in moving new technology forward in a way that is safe and secure. I like to think about policy as software as it creates rules for our world in away that enables the good while preventing the bad. Right now, we are lagging behind in the policymaking with respect to the use of drones in the national airspace system, as the technology is moving forward at an incredibly quick pace while the speed of bureaucracy is relatively slow.
“There are significant safety and economic benefits to drone use. The industry is growing quickly, creating new jobs and introducing significant economic efficiencies to vertical industry sectors like infrastructure, energy, agriculture, filmmaking and more. There are also important safety benefits for the use of drones for commercial purposes, which is why we are seeing a massive demand for drones in the recent years.
“With regard to policy, there are three main points policymakers are considering.
I like to think about policy as software as it creates rules for our world in a way that enables the good while preventing the bad
The first involves safety. If a drone falls out of the sky or flies away, how can we ensure the safety of the people on the ground and other vehicles in the air? The second pertinent policy issue is national security: how can we enable law enforcement to identify drones that are flying in order to determine whether they are authorized? And how can authorities mitigate potential drone threats if ncessary? For example, consider the options for law enforcement in the case of drones flying over critical infrastructure, stadiums, prisons, the White House lawn, or any place where they should not be flying. Finally, questions have been raised around privacy issues. The American people are intrigued by and excited about drone technology, but (while a drone is just a platform for a camera like any other technology) the data has shown that the idea of an eye in the sky often worries people for some reason.
The role of an organization in complying with policy regulations
“Organizations and innovators need to align themselves with the policies issued. They also need to educate policymakers about the best use cases for drones and the roadmap of the technology. To be successful, companies must think around corners. To do so, it is highly essential for any company in the drone industry to have an understanding of where the policies are going. Many policy problems can be solved through technology. For example, collision avoidance technology can prevent drones from crashing into each other, or into people or structures. Companies must track progress, but also help policymakers solve these problems. Innovators must be flexible enough to incorporate some of the compliances into their next upgrade or iteration, with an eye solving some of the policy issues coming down the pike.
Policy trends observed in drone technology space
“The White House recently announced a UAS Integration Pilot Program that facilitates collaboration among states, cities, localities, and the drone industry. Cities, states, and localities may apply to be a hub for innovation for drone technology. From a city or a state’s perspective, they want to be able to provide drone package delivery services, emergency response or other drone use cases to their constituents. At the same time, the program will enable participating drone companies to do research and development. This pilot program focuses on providing these benefits to the American people while moving drone policymaking forward with the federal government.
Through this and other programs, I can see extended operations and rule-making criteria being incorporated in the near future. Part 107, which was the first drone regulation broadly authorizing commercial drone flight, is quite limited. But as we collect data over a period of time, and the safety cases are proven, flights beyond visual line of sight, over people, night flights, swarm flights (more than one vehicle for each pilot), and much more will be enabled.
Leadership traits and principles benefiting drone regulations
“I have spent a fair share of time working for and with the federal government, so I understand what they are trying to achieve. Through our recent Domestic Drone Security Series, hosted by Hogan Lovells and the Commercial Drone Aliance, we are constantly trying to bring relevant stakeholders together to collaborate with the government and construct solutions to address some of the prevailing security challenges. I believe that, when you put smart people together in a room, you are sure to end up with some possible solutions -- and I think that is the best approach to tackling our industry’s challenges.”